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Local bar owner honored by Iowa Restaurant Association
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Local bar owner honored by Iowa Restaurant Association

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Matt Johnson, owner of Barley’s, poses for a portrait inside his establishment on Friday. Barley’s was named this year’s Iowa Hospitality Operator of the Year.

A local proprietor was recently recognized for the service he provides to the greater Council Bluffs community.

This week, the Iowa Restaurant Association announced through a news release that Matt Johnson, owner and operator of Barley’s Bar & Grill, 114 W. Broadway, has been named this year’s Iowa Hospitality Operator of the Year.

Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, highlighted why she believes Johnson was the ideal candidate for this year’s recognition.

“Matt is a visionary, as well as a business, industry and community leader,” Dunker said through a provided statement. “He embodies perfectly what our industry is all about — creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit.”

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“He always sees what’s possible.”

According to information provided by the association, one of the major reasons Johnson was selected is because of his large-scale investment — both with his time and money — in Council Bluffs. In addition to operating Barley’s, the association noted that Johnson is in the process of jump-starting a new business venture.

“Matt has purchased and renovated multiple buildings of his on the street,” the release says. “His newest project will convert a turn-of-the-century building into a ghost kitchen, operating as many as six carryout food concepts, as well as housing an on-premise wine bar. He’s already running a grab and go lunch business at the nearby YMCA.”

Johnson has served on the Iowa Restaurant Association Board of Directors, including a term as chair, and was instrumental in getting key hospitality-focused legislation passed by speaking with elected officials in Des Moines and Washington D.C., according to the release.

He was selected for this honor by a statewide group of his hospitality peers.

Matt is an alumnus of Iowa Western Community College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He and his wife, Jill, live in Council Bluffs with their two children.

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